Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Ursula Rucker ‎– Silver Or Lead (2003)

Style: Downtempo, Future Jazz, Trip Hop, Spoken Word
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Studio !K7, Hostess Entertainment Unlimited

Tracklist:
01.   Damned If I Do
02.   Soon
03.   What A Woman Must Do
04.   Untitled Flow
05.   Lonely Can Be Sweet
06.   Time
07.   Q & A
08.   Release
09.   This
10.   I/We
11.   Return To Innocence Lost

Ursula Rucker's 2001 debut album Supa Sista wasn't all it could have been. Yes, the verbals kicked and sure, some of the beats rocked, but the sparse, metallic atmospheres and raw, uncompromising nature of the poetics left many feeling cold and even a little alienated. 
Given Rucker's status as the urban wordsmith of choice for super-melodic acts like Japan's Silent Poets, Germany's Jazzanova, UK's 4 Hero and local Phillie heroes King Britt and The Roots, this austerity came as something of a surprise. 
Thankfully, Silver Or Lead addresses these issues head on. Instead of hiring a new set of beatmakers, Rucker has commendably re-recruited the same coterie of friends and associates that graced her first outing, commissioning tunes that better compliment her sassy attitude, melody and streetwise head-funk. 
A showcase of new and unreleased tracks as well as a retrospective of some of her finest moments (most of which have only been previously released on other peoples fulllengths), Silver Or Lead is a more mature and less inhibited record. 
Cuts like "Time", her philosophical team up with 4 Hero grooves, and the highly personal "Return To Innocence Lost" (which deals with the violent death of her brother) are included here, alongside a continuous flow of swirling soul and melodious thunk supplied by the likes of Rob Yancey, Jazzanova, King Britt, Mysterium and Lil Louie Vega. 
Within these streams and rivers of sound which take us through Afro-latino, hypnotic hip hop and deep drum & bass, verbal blow after verbal blow is rained upon us as Rucker invests the English language with a rhythm and power all of her own. 
There's a Septemeber 11 critique on "Release", self-reflection on "Lonely Can Be Sweet", poetic brutality on "What a Woman Must Do" and slavery tales on "Soon". Throughout, Rucker's velvety voice manages to both mollify and add a sinister dimension to the harshness of her subject matter. 
With her follow up, she has thus created a finely balanced document which is melodic enough to make the hips swing and thought-provoking enough to demand repeated listening.
Jack Smith / BBC Review